Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Latest Politically Correct Spin on the Word "Duplex"

During the March 22 Planning Commission Public Hearing, I listened to a developer speaking to the Commission on his plans in a neighborhood outside the North End. He told them that he does not like to use the word "duplex" (which is the term the Planning Department still uses and most of us laypeople would probably still use for the type of attached homes he was intent on building) because he found that people were generally repelled by the thought. No kidding. I wonder why.

Indeed, countless property owners and land developers are trying to change the language on us in order to make their properties more attractive. The latest fashion in marketable names for duplexes is the awkward and verbose title "single-family attached homes."

Never mind that, unlike what most of us understand to be single-family homes, these attached offerings usually don't have yards. Never mind that you'd have to compress drastically your understanding of "family" to shoe-horn a family into one of these dwellings. They prefer that we use their politically correct terminology to help them make more money.

But just because investors call a mouse "a kangaroo" doesn't mean that the rest of us are buying in, expecting to find a pouch and some bounding spring in a scurrying little rodent.


  1. So do you call units of 3 a triplex? and a unit of 4 a quadplex? (Garfield Place??) The link that you have in a previous post has the following in the Land Use Plans (see below). Look at how the government defines them...

    6. Land Use Plans
    The Land Use Plan establishes the various uses within each Structure Plan element in the neighborhood.
    Match the land use categories with the appropriate building types found in the main
    Subarea 8 document.
    6.1 Single Family Attached or Detached
    This category includes a mixture of single-family housing that varies based on the size of the lot
    and building placement on the lot. Detached houses are single units on a single lot (e.g. typical
    single family house). Attached houses are single units that are attached to other single-family
    houses (e.g. townhouse)

  2. Introducing a term in a Land Use Plan is one thing; latching on to it as a smoke-screen to cover investors' & developers' intention of not contributing to balance in a community by building a mix of homes with square footage large enough for single families along side those only large enough for singles and young couples is quite another.

    I've never suggested that government (including Planning) is prone to use common sense, but any time a technical term used in Land Use gets twisted into converting balance into high density for the sake of profit is exactly when it becomes open to political correctness that shields a lot more than it discloses. The Planning use in the quote above is meant to encourage transparency and understanding. Renaming duplexes "attached single-family homes" when many in the community would question whether they are suited for families or whether they would amount to anything other than a duplex (even if the sellers don't prefer the term) is an exercise in dishonesty.

    In observing a number of Planning Commission meetings, I hear words like "townhouse," "duplex," and "single-family home." I cannot honestly ever remember a Commissioner referring to a "detached" or "attached" single-family home.

    On the question of what qualifies as a SFH: I'd say a townhouse becomes a single-family home when it has its own yard and the square footage to accommodate an averaged-sized family. I believe we should also entertain popular attraction to single family homes; what are family home buyers more attracted to? Single-family attached or detached? If the former, then it is fair to say that such a preference ought to inform the definition of "single-family" in homes. How can a single-family "attached" home be "single-family" if "single-families" would prefer (all things being equal) "detached"?

    We moved to Salemtown out of an East Nashville townhouse after having a baby. Why? Because it (and large numbers of townhouses) cannot accommodate a family of four. How many townhouses qualify as single-family, then? My guess is, outside of richer neighborhoods, not many.